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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
Molly has no qualms about filing reports on Claire's work and Claire has no qualms about telling Jimmy that Molly won't do floors because of a bad back. Claire has seized an opportunity and betrayed Molly's trust. She gets Jimmy to take a personal interest in her as she plots to work her way up the company ladder. Much of the play's (laugh-out-loud) humor is derived from seeing how these people will say and do anything to get what they need in order to survive and advance.
Claire is desperate to earn more money, as her live-in boyfriend is a deadbeat who spends all day watching TV. Molly is married, but her husband is permanently in a wheelchair on disability. There is built-in poignancy in Molly's situation that is balanced by Claire's naiveté about a career move and her belief that Jimmy's attention is sincere.
The action, under John Pietrowski's "team leading" direction, moves from Jimmy's office to the dining room of a local estate, a hotel room, and a section of an outdoor café. Set designer Richard Turick has done a good job of dividing the smartly evoked locations on three levels. Richard Currie's lighting helps keep our attention where it's required. The whirr of a vacuum cleaner is most likely within the domain of expert sound designer of Jeff Knapp.
Although a robbery of valuable silverware in the home becomes a who-dunnit plot device, it is Claire's unrealistic dream of improving her life and the desperate measures that Molly takes to survive that make the play persuasive and genuinely fun. The most dramatically effective scene takes place in the hotel room in Augusta during the company's annual convention and where Claire (an invigorating performance by the attractive McNally) sees the light and becomes aware of the married Jimmy's intentions. Lankford is excellent capturing Molly's hurt as well as her instinctive resourcefulness. After a long sabbatical from acting, Lankford is returning to the stage while also continuing her tenure as head writer for PBS' Curious George. McNally is very amusing to watch as she uses her allure to her advantage only to see it backfire in a man's world.
But we have to hand it to Cantor for having so much fun with the hilariously despicable Jimmy. If Dresser's distillation of capitalism as practiced by management and labor tends to be a bit simplistic, it is also funnily addressed. Best of all are Jimmy's convoluted nonsensical diatribes. They are reminders of the diversionary gobbledygook that has been used forever by profiteering entrepreneurs to seduce the working class.
This New Jersey premiere has been making the regional rounds since 2006. Though the Dresser play that is probably more familiar to local audiences is Rounding Third, about two incompatible little league coaches. It is, however, his trilogy about happiness in America that is comprised of Augusta (working class), The Pursuit of Happiness (middle class) and A View of the Harbor (upper class) ) that may be considered his most ambitious effort.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
In the Heights
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide